Living with daily discomfort and pain during her adult years, Jill Harris was in her mid-30s when she finally received a doctor’s diagnosis of severe hip dysplasia. She was referred to Cincinnati Children’s, where our Hip Preservation Program treats patients ranging in age from newborn to 45 years old. Successful PAO surgery in adulthood has changed her life.
From nearly non-stop pain to almost none at all. That’s how Jill Harris describes her life after undergoing successful hip surgery. She found her miracle in a somewhat surprising place for a woman her age: a pediatric hospital.
“When I came out of the anesthesia, I could tell that it was fixed,” Harris said. “Before [the surgery] I was so miserable I couldn’t wait for them to put me out. It was all pain. There was no relief.”
Jill, a mother of three, remembers her years of suffering all too well. Aches and pangs were always present, but then one night she awoke in anguish with what she described as “electrical shocks running down my leg.” The pain persisted, so she talked with her orthopedic doctor, who thought it might be an impingement and referred her to another doctor.
“The doc looked at the X-rays and the MRI and said ‘I can’t do anything for you, because impingement is not your problem. You have hip dysplasia.’ ” Jill recalled. “He said, ‘You’re going to see Dr. Whitlock at Cincinnati Children’s and he’s going to fix you.’ ”
Patrick Whitlock, MD, PhD, is an orthopaedic surgeon and Co-Director of the Hip Preservation Center.
Pediatric Hospital, Adult Patient, No Problem
As an adult patient, did Jill, 36, think it strange to hear “Cincinnati Children’s” – known as a world-class pediatric hospital – as the referral location? Not when one question and one answer is all she needed to ease her mind.
“I said, ‘You’re sure I need to go to a children’s hospital?’ ” recalls Jill. “And he said, ‘Trust me. If this is the problem you have and this is the surgery you need to have done, then this is the doctor you need to see.’ ”
A few months later, Dr. Whitlock met with Jill and immediately confirmed the diagnosis of hip dysplasia. He performed successful periacetabular osteotomy (PAO) surgery on the right hip in September 2016 and then in July 2018 corrected her left hip.
“Imagine not being able to get comfortable in any given manner,” said Jill. "And nothing you could take or do would solve the problem. No medicine. No stretches. Nothing would fix it. Then afterwards, day and night.”
Not only did she feel better immediately following the first surgery, but her friends, family and co-workers also noticed the immediate improvement with their own eyes.
“My coworkers are still talking about how I was before the first surgery. They said it pained them to watch me walk,” Jill recalled. “They literally watched my downfall, basically, and how I had come out of it.”
Praise for Hip Preservation Team
Instead of intense pain, Jill now deals with only muscular aches and stiffness from scar tissue as she works to extend her range of motion. She thanks all the doctors, nurses and staff from the Hip Preservation team, but reserves particular praise for Dr. Whitlock.
“I’ve seen lots and lots of other orthopedic docs. And most of them had an arrogance about them. They had a superior air that they can fix what’s wrong with you,” said Jill. “But Dr. Whitlock has no arrogance. What he does is he projects confidence in what he’s going to do for you. He was like, ‘I’m 100 percent sure this is what we need to do.’ And I was like, ‘OK, I’m sold.’ And I’ve not regretted any of it.”
Dr. Whitlock is pleased to know he and his team were able to successfully diagnose and treat Jill’s hip dysplasia, easing her pain and improving her day-to-day life.
“Jill continues to be a positive, great patient, and is working toward a full return to activity of both hips,” he said. “This has led to an improved quality of life and is just one example of how we are able to address complex hip pathologies in the young adult population successfully at Cincinnati Children’s.”
The Hip Preservation staff includes a team of nurses who help the patient before and after surgery. It was Dr. Whitlock’s rapport with one person in particular, nurse practitioner Rachel Breitenstein, that served as further evidence for Jill about how well the team worked together and helped reaffirm her decision to come to Cincinnati Children’s.
“She knows what he’s thinking before he says it,” said Jill. “They’re like a left and right hand working together and somehow there’s a third hand. They were that attentive. They were there to help me with anything I needed.”
And now Jill will be there for her kids in anything they need. After being physically limited for so many years, she is eager to catch up on lost time, whether it’s on the soccer field or any place else.
“I have kids who play soccer to take care of. Someone has to go out there and push them. And it’s hard when you don’t have the time, when you can’t play with your kids,” she said.
Then her team of caregivers at Cincinnati Children’s helped Jill put that inability to play with her kids right where it belongs: in the past.